Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Releases August - September

!!! - Strange Weather, Isn't It?
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Autolux - Transit Transit
Of Montreal - False Priest
Panda Bear - Tomboy
Interpol - Interpol
No Age - Everything in Between

M.I.A - /\/\ /\ Y /\ “Ultimate Failure Killtacular”

9. Born Free

If you saw the music video for this, you know M.I.A hates Ginger Kids. Rather than have them integrated into society, she wants them rounded up and driven into the desert and shot in the head. That’s seriously uncool of you M.I.A, how about you go ride a chillwave?

Now, if you disliked how she appropriates others music for her tracks, well, that’s too bad. Lots of other artists do it, and to great effect. Even her previous “Paper Planes” song, as annoying as it may have been to fans of The Clash, still was able to create something new and interesting. That's why kids went crazy for it.

Hearing this in this song, I’m deeply offended as you should be. First, she not only uses the rift from a great Suicide song she uses their style of delivery. Instead of being a cool song like “Ghost Rider” where the sample comes from, it just showcases her flake y politics. Alan Vega on “Ghost Rider” sang about how “America is killing its youth” but didn’t sound like some over-muddled track. Instead, they used simplicity to great effect rather than bash you over the head with its political leanings.

Alan Vega probably needed the money to buy more metal chains to intimidate audiences with. Collaborations with Pan Sonic don’t pay the bills. So as he sits in his dreary apartment, eating his delicious Stouffer diners with his M.I.A money, he’ll hear what happened to his song and weep himself to sleep. Or compliment him on his businessman acumen. You know, he’s living large with those quality microwavable dinners.

Yussef Jerusalem – A Heart Full of Sorrow 6.0

It isn’t metal, despite the full track of black metal filth which opens the album. And it isn’t pop, despite some of the poppy tracks on here like “We Ain’t Coming Back”. Instead, you get a vast range of sounds for such a short offering.

Yes, he slathers questionable fidelity over these 9 tracks. And there’s some catchy goodness here, some excellent 60s homage there. The humor he displays is in the very metal album cover and the bizarre track titles he offers you.

Despite some goodness, it feels like a lackluster Elephant 6 band. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but there’s many more bands doing this sort of thing with greater clarity (in terms of talent, not sound quality).

Friday, July 30, 2010

M.I.A - /\/\ /\ Y /\ “Ultimate Failure Killtacular”

M.I.A certainly has had an interesting tenure for being one of sloppiest agitprop musicians to ever walk the face of the earth. For a while, people decided that her voice did a great job blending into the background, being interesting as another piece of the music. It’s not as if her lyrics were particularly intelligent or memorable. In fact, her lyrics are the exact opposite of either of those words. Now, on this annoyingly titled “MAYA” album, her lyrics somehow have achieved pure puerile idiocy. Listening to something so stupid, I wonder whether or not it isn’t a giant joke on her audience, the way that the Insane Clown Posse are. In a few years, we might have her performing live in some sad part of nowhere to sad out-of-touch losers who huff paint in their backyard and work at 7/11.

Her entire demeanor has changed as well. The beats definitely have gotten worse, which is basically the whole reason anyone listened to her. Plus, her reactions are absurd. When a New York Times reporter wrote how she talked about those living in poverty while she ate truffle fries, M.I.A decided the best course of action would be to post that reporter’s phone number on her twitter account. Diplo, her former boyfriend/producer, doesn’t even contribute a single decent track. Maybe he’s upset that they broke up or (more likely) that his time has passed and his ‘tracks’ are total garbage.

What I will offer in these 16 separate installments will be my analysis of each miserable pieces of music. Perhaps, after going through the whole album painstakingly, I can find something redeemable. Or perhaps I’ll see exactly why it has been so uniformly panned. Consider this homage to all the incessant hate she’s received, and all the hate she has/will be dishing out.

Carsick Cars – Carsick Cars 8.3

Welcome to the premier indie rock band out of Beijing, China. These guys, rather than have their music influenced by American bands, get most of their influence within the Chinese fraternal rock scene. So this means that not only has China become self-sustaining economically, but also culturally in some respects. Still, this is only the beginning of their rock scene, keeping in mind they’ve only had access to rock and this freedom of expression since the beginning of the 80s.

Nonetheless, they lack a great deal of basic artistic freedom, so if they want to get our crappie movies about Kung Fu Pandas, they better play ball and continue lapping up our garbage disposal culture, Lady Gaga and M.I.A and all.

It is interesting to hear how aggressive the music sounds, as if it is some sort of long-lost late 80s band. The aggression, style, and tone of their music suggest this, and while the temptation to compare them to Sonic Youth seems appropriate, I’d hold off on that. Sonic Youth had them open for them specifically because of their high quality, not because of similarities.

Nor do they resist the temptation to get a little experimental. On “Zhong nan Hai” they play around with amplifier distortion, and you get to hear the pure joy of them re-discovering the core of their original song.

Overall, this is pretty interesting stuff. And after we’re done mining the early 80s for nostalgia, perhaps we’ll turn to these guys influence of the late 80s/early 90s sound.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

That's What I Want!

Dubstep is probably something you've been subjected to whether you like it or not. Recently it has sprouted up everywhere, with various degrees of greatness. Now it has sort of overwhelmed the UK in the past 2-3 years, having artists like Joy Orbison and ilk teasing us with EPs.

Well, a new artist has stepped into the Dubstep fray. That would be Shit and Shine, a band I am particularly fond of. They're more known for creating havoc and unreasonable levels of distortion. But finally they've gone a little more mainstream for us, finally creating an EP that could get serious play on UK radio.

Nah, I kid. This sounds absolutely mad from what little I've been able to find. I mean, they've essentially been doing a better job at creating chaos than latter day Rhys Chatham (yes, despite the fact you had roughly a small country's worth of people playing guitars Mr. Chatham you still couldn't make it sound interesting? Well, at least your early stuff hasn't aged a day). Shit and Shine have been known to have multiple drummers (as many as 10), bassists, sampler players and guitarists in a thick stew. Plus, they played at the South by Southwest music festival, showing one of their two origins (the other being London) some love.

Anyway, it sounds promising from the few samples you can encounter on Boomkat's website, those delightful, over-informed British music nerds:

Let's hope that the Texas-UK hybrid band is able to tame the wobble. I want this.

June of 44 – Engine takes to the Water 9.5

Yes. That was my first impression upon hearing this summarization of various modern neuroses, whether it is pollution, overwork, smoking, etc. Following immediately after the implosion of Rodan, these guys took up the mantle of the after effects of Slint’s paranoid vision. Dynamics are big with this album, jolting from near silence to sudden rush of noise in a split-second.

Like Slint, these guys focus heavily on discomfort. Lyrically, they are rather dark, like listening to a depressive speaks stream-of consciousness. But there are tender moments included, like the beautiful latter half of “Have a Safe Trip, Dear”. So they are romantic, in their own perverse, twisted way. Plus, the lyrics are far clearer than they had been throughout Spiderland.

He believes in the machinery/the machines he has nothing to do with, the singer extols in “Mindel” as he worries whether or not these things he does not understand can actually do anything. Or does the fact that they are so complicated only lead to a false sense of security, that someone knows better than you? Either way, they don’t answer us, but let the tension build up without any resolution.

Horns, noisy amp ambiance, and breathing come add diversity to their version of rock. Near silence plays a role as well, since it allows the lyrics to be heard perfectly well, and they are surprising good for Post Rock, which usually has more emphasis on instrumentals. Here both work together, forming an unhappy post-industrial society, where protagonists don’t win, ever, because “All he ever does is work” like “Mooch” explains, between an almost roller coaster feeling the guitar work gives.

And finally we reach the end of this album, with the almost uplifting “Sink is Busted”. A fitting end to an unusually diverse album, this trudge away from us, happy that at least some of those machines they understand break.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wavves – King of the Beach 6.8

Nathan Williams fits a certain type of bratty beach rock. And in case you weren’t sure whether or not he loved the beach, he made you know that a pot-smoking cat ruled over it. Hyper-active vocals get towards a sort of Blink 182 kind of feel, like an updated version of emo.

It is unfortunate that his onstage breakdown lead a lot of people to dismiss him as a “spoiled kid who ruined his luck”. But listening to this, the sound is heavily cleaned up, and the catchiness still remains. The shorter songs are more enjoyable, since he tends to focus on highly repetitive choruses and hearing these for over 3 minutes can really grate on one’s nerves.

Hearing the first three songs is really ideal, and then skips into the end of the CD for “Idiot” to “Green Eyes”. What lies in between these points isn’t anything terrible, but it is a little forgettable. Also, the last two songs on the album “Comfortable Balloon” and “Baby Say Goodbye” get very tired very quickly.

Honestly, Best Coast (his girlfriend’s band) does a better job of having a more beach-like, memorable album. This at times drags a bit in all the wrong places, and though this is still his best output, it pales in comparison to lot of similar beach worship bands.

The Raveonettes – In and Out of Control 4.8

So this perfectly exemplifies the problem I have with a lot of “indie rock”. Here’s a band that is technically good and does write some interesting songs (like “Bang”, “Last Dance” “D.R.U.G.S) and a lot of mild ones. But unfortunately they seem more focused on just creating inoffensive pop rather than mixing things together.

The whole album is a chore to get through, there simply isn’t enough here that hasn’t been done many times before, often better. Rather than listen to this, I’d suggest groups that already specialize in this sort of sound, like Yo La Tengo or the Radio Dept. Those groups have better, more memorable and meaningful songs. And yeah, I know the Raveonettes write indie rock pop, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t standards for that ultra conservative genre.

Not there this isn’t enjoyable, it can be, and it does try to stake some claim to the already crowded field. But ultimately with this record they haven’t convinced me. If there’s an album of theirs that might offer a more flattering picture of what they do, I’m all ears. Because I’ve seen them live, but this really seems very phoned-in.

Eric Copeland – Strange Days 7.6

After the extremely disappointing Black Dice album “Repo”, I sort of avoided their output for a while. Then I heard “Rgag” Eric’s own solo contribution, and figured they were out for the fight, forever going into a greater and greater place of meaninglessness.

“Strange Days” puts some of my worries at rest. For one thing, Strange Days avoids a lot of what made Repo so boring: this move around a lot without those lazy drum loops thrown on top. Instead, this has apparently field recording mixed alongside his distorted as fuck loops.

So how effective is it? Basically, it makes me excited about Eric and Black Dice’s future, if they are able to throw together this perfectly chaotic and disjointed. Mixing the crust of pop songs into a mess, the first side (A) does a better job of maintaining the listener’s interest. The second side (B) does a decent job, but occasionally loses interest in itself. Thankfully, it is also the shorter side.

Basically, if you liked his work in “Alien in a Garbage Dump” this is an even better execution of that idea. And finally Eric has decided to no longer be content on just finding a groove and playing it to the end (which was the problem with RGAG and Repo).

The Yips – Bonfire in a Dixie Cup 8.7

“Does it cost money to remove the feedback part of the song at the beginning? It does, screw it, leave it.”

I’m certain that the Yips had this conversation at some point. The whole thing is scuzzy as hell, and the vocals on this sound like she sang directly into the tape recorder. Honestly, this it the beginning for the love obsession people have been having with more “lo-fi” bands, so it’s a bit of a shame that this came out in the mid 90s. Had this come out now, everyone would be all up in this.

Using hyper-articulate lyrics along with absolutely hug-gable melodies, it is a true winner. And though the vocals may not work for everyone (in other words, they are very “raw”) they do perfectly sync up with the guitars, drums, and whoever bangs on the cymbal.

“Short North Song” does a pretty excellent job of reusing the groove from Velvet Underground’s “The Gift” to great effect. The following song “Muhammad Ali” gives us an early example of what Deerhoof would later claim as their sound. Plus, in case the fuzzy guitars get too harsh, they’ve been kind enough to mellow them out with two acoustic guitars songs.

All of this works; it flies by due to their ability to make everything so infinitely catchy. You could have these songs stuck in your head for days. Even the vocals make sense after a while, where at first it sounds like she’s straining her voice, until you realize this is part of their aesthetic. Find this if you can, it is infinitely excellent.

Dianogah – Millions of Brazilians 6.6

If you heard this album in the early 90s, it would’ve been different. Strong bass lines mix with relaxed percussion and a nice bossa nova feel (hence the title, I’m guessing). Since this album was released in 2002, it ends up feeling a bit more nostalgic than anything, for those days of late 90s Chicago Post Rock.

This isn’t to say they don’t handle the task competently. In fact, a lot of this is pretty good, but it feels like a mixture of The Sea and Cake and Ui, without either of those band’s personalities or creativity. Yes, it has the restrained relaxed nature of the former band, with the rhythmic guitar lines of the latter.

Longer songs on here (over the four minute mark) are probably the best offerings on here. Due to their length, you get a better feel of what the band is actually capable of, which is a shame since it would be good to hear a less cliqued take on their talent. Hearing “Wrapping the Lamb”, “Flat Panda” and “Pitufina” would be the best option.

Not that the other songs are awful, but they are so indebted to a style of music, to other bands, that they fail to leave any impression whatsoever. Also, the passage of time has not been so kind to this band as other Post Rock bands. Perhaps they embraced the sound a little too hard, to their detriment. Despite this, it is a fairly easy listen, just nothing remarkable.

Mr. Flash – Blood, Sweat, and Tears 7.2

Uffie finally dropped her long awaited album to the usual chorus of hate and love, in unequal doses. Last year a man long considered one of the best (Mr.Oizo) came out with a relatively lackluster album. This leaves Mr. Flash alone in creating something truly excellent for the Ed Banger label, and hopefully we get another album out of him at some point. He delivers, in case you were wondering.

Things start off really slow with the first track, but appropriately pick up with the second part of the suite in “Domino Part B”, which a nice kicking beat and quiet plucks underneath the veneer. “Couscous” has some overused samples used in a create fashion, with a nice, hard hitting ramshackle beat for accompaniment.

“Flesh” is probably one of the best tracks on the whole EP. Starting out with a sort of silly melody, it fades out to whipping noises and gets really nasty. Distortion comes in and the whole thing gets way darker. After this, we’re treated to the silliest track “Motorcycle Boy” which at times sounds like an Akufen track due to the sheer number of samples and the fuck you attitude.

Most of this is dosed in an unhealthy amount of 80s kitsch, but the final track just makes this clear for you, in case you were confused. “Powerlight” serves as a victory lap for Mr. Flash, for keeping up the excellent standards of quality one has been able to expect from him.

Mark McGuire – Tidings/Amethyst Waves 8.3

With Emeralds releasing albums at a breakneck pace, you wouldn’t think that Mark could have enough time to come up with something great. That assumption would be wrong however, upon exposing yourself to this absolutely fantastic release.

Harking back to such greats as Manuel Göttsching, he not only comes up with technically engaging pieces, they have true heart as well. And he throws a curve ball with the beginning of the first two tracks, having a bizarre sample and distortion introduce you into the ebb and flow of things.

All of this brings about an intense sunshine. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere for darkness to hide and the range here is excellent. Moving from high to low frequencies never felt so lovable. Nor does he indulge in hiding his instrument, the guitar. After all those waves of sound, he returns back again and again to the simple beauty of the electronic guitar.

The first half is much louder (Tidings) while (Waves) tends to work within mellower space. Like all good ambient music, it just flows around you and whizzes by at a breakneck pace despite the hour plus length. Oh, and he adores baseball.

LA Vampires and Zola Jesus – LA Vampires and Zola Jesus 6.9

Did I mention that this has bass? Yes, your head will be subjected to very heavy bass with this one. Shadowy vocals go through swimming through the dark music, like some sort of Gothic dub.

None of this gets particularly difficult. Everything here is kept at a respectable pop length, to immerse yourself only briefly into their world. That’s a bit of a tease, since this is the sort of sound that benefits from sprawl. The songs that bookend this EP are pretty much the best ones, mixing in dollops of vocals, beats, and melody.

Sadly, most of the meat and potatoes of the EP sound like stuff they sort of hashed together. This works well if you’re not familiar with either artist, but this collaboration is only the sum of their parts. Look up each artist’s individual work (as Pocahaunted and Zola Jesus) separately for better explored variations on these ideas. Not as stunning as it could have been, but not awful by any means. Definitely worth looking up at some point, but do make an effort to find their better individual projects.

Best Coast – Crazy for You 7.7

Adored by the crème de la crème of cool, like Bill Murray and Thurston Moore, but how exactly did the music stand up? Well, thankfully it meets the expectations created by their EPs and then some.

Originally I worried about this album, since I remember that Real Estate’s EPs were so good, but in album form, I felt a bit let down. Most of that was due to the album being a collection of their EPs. Here, Best Coast brings new material to this short album focused around boys, weed, and the beach. So if that appeals to you in twee pop form, you’re pretty much set.

Despite the fact that she originally worked as a part of Pocahaunted, it lacks their heaviness. Refreshingly light music, it starts off strong with “Boyfriend”. The pacing is pretty good, alternating between fast and slow. “When the Sun Don’t Shine” would be another winner of mine, it has a really clean, bright feel to it.

Essentially this is a good album for playing at the coast, drinking moderately and doing very little. This isn’t music for motivation; it is the most laid-back, mellow happy music you could find. I dare you not to smile when listening to their silly lyrics and upbeat melodies.

Siren's Call - 2010

This year marked the first time I actually got there on time to see the opening bands. Unusual I know, most people are dedicated to arriving fashionably late, and telling those first bands “sorry”. Well, not this time padre, I was determined to see it straight from the beginning. Whether or not that was the best course of action I’m still mulling that over.

Apache Beat happened to be the first ones. Now they took a slightly more electronic sound than most (but not all) of the following bands. Much of what they did was pretty solid at the time, but it didn’t leave me with any distinct good or bad impression. Basically, it was technically competent but still emotionally engaging enough.

Indie rock tends towards that sort of conservatism. It isn’t a very ambitious genre; it knows what it is supposed to do and who it needs to please. Add some hooks, but make sure that it isn’t quite pop. Essentially, it’s making pop likable for dour college graduates.

Screaming Female struck me as being really bizarre. Here was some androgynous grade-schooler who somehow created an arty rock band. In fact, she was so androgynous I had to look up the playbill to double check that it was an actual “screaming female”. Anyway, I never heard them before but enjoyed it. She showed a tremendous amount of energy which half of the audience sort of had a “WTF” face for. But rather than simply being a novelty act, they did a pretty decent (though not exceptional) job. Plus, did she mention that they’re from New Brunswick? I have no idea why that piece of information was so important, but she constantly brought it up, like they gained some New Jersey street cred.

Insanity like that (she ended her set making feedback noises on her guitar and with a microphone in her mouth) lead into Surfer Blood, one of the more anticipated acts of the day. They weren’t afraid to pump up on the distortion, and did a fairly good job of jumping around the stage. At times I felt like they were a little on the lazy side, but that’s to be expected from a band that’s been touring 24/7 almost the entire year. They basically touch upon all the finer points of good indie rock: a decent level of distortion, some jamming, relatively straightforward singing style, etc. At some point though they'll truly make some mind blowing stuff, they have the feel of a group that will really hit it after another year or two.

Walking on Stilwell, I heard something. Something that sounded incredibly fun. Ponytail started the party early. People braved not only the heat but also various crowd surfers and other assorted idiots. Whoever sings for Ponytail has the sort of energy I’ve seen from Deerhoof’s lead singer, an almost psychotic level of enthusiasm and good cheer. Apparently this mixed with sugar candy music works wonders. I enjoyed them tremendously, and wished that I had seen them from the get-go, rather than sort of coming in halfway at their set.

Earl Greyhound changed that up a lot. Instead of sticking with what had gone before, they dedicated there wasn’t enough nostalgia for the unremembered 70s heavy riff rock. So they got together and created this dense, molasses like jam. And it was loud, the sort of loud that almost prohibits thinking. I was glad they were there; they offered a nice respite from so many of the more chaotic bands. No, they took their time in extending everything and giving everybody a breather. And though they did maybe mention their new album a bit more than everybody else, they seemed like decent people. In fact, one of the guitarists was considered so decent that whenever the breeze blew her dress up, various photographers rushed over to her. That’s just what kind of nice, creepy guys they were.

I’ve mentioned Harlem before on this. How much I really, really adored “Hippies” and how they pretty much nailed the garage rock sound. So, after building them up to friends and within my own mind, I wondered how they’d stand up in reality. Would they just disappoint me and leave me a jilted former lover of their great sound? Or would it only be so-so.

Witnessing them made my night. First of all, they had actual personalities. All other bands refused to talk to the audience, out of some “cooler than you” factor. Instead, Harlem took the exact opposite approach. They wanted you to be cooler than them, and they’d helped. Hey audience, do whatever you feel like. All that space you have down there, how about you use it. Rather than telling us about some CD, or making a lame Brooklyn reference, they completely shot the bull with us, and were more endearing for it.

So we did. Within a few minutes, everyone started jumping around, crowd surfing, moshing, and having a grand old time. Security didn’t appreciate the suggestion, so they started rushing towards the audience after seeing the mayhem. It helped that Harlem writes the easiest, most infinitely enjoyable pop ditties to grace that good audience. Even simpler than Surfer Blood, they bring things down to the bare basics. No keyboards, just drums and guitars. And they’re not exceptionally talented, but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. They get along great, and seem to not take anything going on around them with the most remote amount of seriousness. So, they rocked my face off. If you ever get the chance to see them live, do it! Plus, as an added bonus, later in the night the whole band was crowd surfing during Holy Fuck! set, proving they just want to have fun, and this band thing is just the best way of doing it.

Now after such a great performance, anything after that would be a letdown. And Cymbals Eat Guitars are such a letdown band. Obviously the most “Emo” of the bands, they did not have fun. No talking with the audience, and a really tired approach to songwriting that sounds cutting edge at first, and then sounds like “Oh yeah, they’re going to bring things down to a whisper before screaming again”. With a good set of headphones, they sound pretty excellent. Seeing them live, I would not recommend it. It isn’t good live music, they don’t write catchy music, and they didn’t fit in at all with any of the other bands. And I adore experimentation, but theirs was not of some “That is absolutely insane”. Instead, it is typical keyboard vamp fare, relatively underwhelming stuff. Listen to their album, it is an alright album. But live is just a completely boring experience.

Holy Fuck was just holy fuck. Like, it meshed together weird keyboard squiggles and extended grooves to make perfectly bizarre dance music. Dance music usually benefits from a live setting, but even so, they just knew exactly what to do. It felt like kraut rock married noise and put a dance beat to it. Since they saw people moshing and wriggling our bodies around, they were smart and put in some “cool down” songs to allow everybody a few moments of rest. Most of it was too energy for people to not react by stealing signing, smashing into each other, and getting into gross piles of dehydrated masses. Right now I only had heard their album “LP” and liked it, but their live performance adds so much to what is going on. Again, like for Harlem, see these guys live if you get a chance; it is just such a blast.

Overall, I really liked this Siren. I felt the organizers did a fairly decent job trying to avoid the “Indie Rock Muzak” problem that’s plagued previous Siren Festivals, where everything blends into each. Plus, the inclusion of various “slower” bands ended up being quite nice, with Earl Greyhound a good rest while still adding something of value. And I know how hard it is to include so many different groups when the festival is based around a certain specific group of tastes, so kudos to the Village Voice for doing a fantastic job with the quality.

Mi Ami – Steal Your Face 7.8

No introduction is needed for these guys. Literally, as soon as you put on the album, you’re thrown into the fray of things. The groove starts immediately, and there’s basically little letup throughout the entire hyperactive album. Only “Dreamers” offers any sort of mellow jam. Otherwise prepare to listen to screamed out lyrics and jams that become dense with noise.

“Latin Lover” is fantastic. A chaotic guitar blasts away some semblance of a groove, which never quite goes away. They put it through distortion, adds healthy dollops of additional noise, but the rhythm is so insistent.

Most of the album keeps things in perspective. Even the slowest songs are still pretty loud. Everything is loud, distorted, screamed and generally offers good fun. Remember those first few EPs of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, before they turned so bland (like Master EP)? This is the logical conclusion of that sound, truly a blast.

The Panoply Academy of Legionnaires – No Dead Time 9.7

Occasionally there’s an album that comes along and blows your mind. Yet nobody else has ever even heard of it, and there’s so much references yet so much new with it. And then that band doesn’t make it easy to introduce itself to people, changing its name with every new lineup. The Panoply Academy is such a band.

Each song has many, many songs placed within, and the chaotic pace at which it evolves may deter some listeners. The biggest deterrent would have to be the singer’s voice, which, when you initially hear it, it grates. But stick with it, the tension his voice provides perfectly matches the taut and stressed arrangements they create.

The bass that opens up the album will never leave my mind, and it accurately sums up everything that is about to happen. Tension exists in every corner of this album, whether it is a happy, nervous energy, or something darker like in “Highlight and Marginalia”, the closer. And don’t worry, despite the sometimes ADD-nature of the album, it is so catchy. Like there are more ideas in this one album than some artists have in their entire careers.

Although they’re from Bloomington, IN, there are a few moments that are influenced more by what was going on in Chicago at the turn of the century. “The Work It” counts, with a gentle lead in, and “Hushlife” which is the only song that might actually be considered as mellow.

Bizarre relaxed vocals come into introduce you to “Eyesore to Bedsore” which comes across as a tropical, almost summery, sort of track, plus horns thrown in for good measure. “Thermonitor” moves from almost ambient pulses into the weird guitar work and back again.

Even after being stuck inside this album for a number of months in high school, then in college, and again now, I’m still amazed at what quality this is. And how many random instruments (including noise makers, horns, random electronic effects, etc) they threw in and still made it germane. Please check this out under all circumstances, they did albums after this, but this is easily their greatest, and a real diamond in the rough.

The Hospitals – The Hospitals 8.1

The Hospitals are disgusting, low life scumbags. Since they are such horrible people, they feel the need to express this via music, or whatever you’d call this. Personally, I like this one better than “Hairdryer Peace” since it is so much catchier.

Only 26 minutes or so, you get their idea about rock and roll should be fairly quickly, particularly in the harrowing tale of “Rock and Roll is killing my Life”. Starting with an almost subtle noisy intro, it then blasts into a 50s guitar riff that would’ve been envied by an insane zombie Buddy Holly. Ripping into your eardrums like a razor-blade q-tip, you will never have this leave your head.

“Friends” is another highlight, expressing the joy of having friends surround you. So that way you can torture them with guitars that sound so awful that they wish they were “lo-fi”. Smudgy garage rock with extra noise thrown in, this is head and shoulders above most other “shitgaze” bands, the closest relative probably being Times New Viking. Ridiculously catchy stuff we have right here, and they can’t hide it.

Monolake – Silence 8.0

Whoa, this is a meticulous recording. Think of the most hi-fi, detail orientated recording you can think of, because this one beats it. Every single tiny detail is excruciatingly shown to you, the lucky listener. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that in addition to its almost insane devotion to creating an alternative sonic reality, the music is pretty excellent as well.

If Luc Ferrari spent some time around Basic Channel, this might have been the product. Detailed, moving productions that not only show off skill but show the emotional resonance we have with our daily noises (clicks, clangs, drops of water, metal falling on metal). “Watching Clouds” gives you a great idea of what you’re in for, with expansive yet very close sounds. Almost melodies hover above your head as the percussive elements do their work.

Percussion-wise, it is excellent. Rather than succumb to the infinite number of ways to make all this hi-fi sound go to cheese, Monolake instead opts to keep it visceral. The hits sound angry, but it never veers into noise or distortion territory. Rather, the sound kicks are met with the most detailed clicks you’ve ever heard. “Far Red” gives you some example of this. Taste and restraint are huge parts of the appeal, and it allows focusing on the exquisite landscape.

Solid song writing, good pace, perfectly executed recording that will stay with you. When so many electronic groups are obsessed with lo-fi, it is nice to know that some shall always focus on the hi-fi.

Basic Channel (Radiance) 7.7

Here the three tracks presented in their full sprawling glory. Basic Channel has done a pretty decent job of re-issuing a lot of these old 12”s onto a digital format. This one might work better in a vinyl setting due to the desired sound quality.

Rhythm takes a far quieter path than the usual persistent beat with tiny fluctuations. Here, we’re sort of lead down this path from the initial airy track (Radiance I). Radiance I offer you crackling and pops of the sounds over a relatively relaxed rhythm going on underneath. No actual solid 4/4 beat comes in until the next track, Radiance II.

Radiance II starts out like a summer breeze before an actual melody comes out of the haze, complete with beat. This is probably the most instantly recognizable track out of the three, since it has all those dreamy effects and such. For whatever reason, it remains the sunniest of all three. Here’s something you can sort of lay down and allow it to flow around you.

Underwater is the third track (Radiance III). Here, all those pops and crackles exist in a new form. Since it has a compressed feel, it always seems like it is going down. Eventually, a beat forms and new sounds join the compressed sounds, allowing it some breathing room.

Out of out the original Basic Channel releases, this has to be one of my favorites. Everything here comes together in a perfect little ecosystem of sound. They’re not ones for overdoing anything, but the pure minimal approach works wonders with the sound that they utilize. Even by their standards, this is truly hypnotic.

Peter Wolf Crier- Inter-Be 6.6

If shaggy dog bands exist, this one would definitely be in the running for poster child. They use a minimum of instruments for maximum effect. Occasionally you’ll hear little flourishes of keyboards, or a hovering organ, but generally speaking it’s the same old worn down instruments.

Tempo is completely unchanging over the course of the 11 songs. Unfortunately this highlights the same-soundness of a lot of the proceedings. “Crutch and Crane” works within this template, as does “Lion”. Poppy for this band is good, and when they write a catchy song, it tends to stick with you.

Sadly, not all of these songs are amazing. A good amount of them come across as rather flavorless, but none are particularly awful or painful. Due to the young age of the group, perhaps with later releases, they’ll learn how to be better editors of their own work. Until such time, there’s enough of that downtrodden Western twang here to keep things interesting.

Keith Fullerton Whitman – Generator 9.1

By electronic musician standards, this guy is definitely unusual. By focusing more heavily on quality than on output, he gets an unreasonable amount of flack for not putting out more. Well, this year he answered his critic’s claims and will have 10 releases for this year.

Whether or not all those releases will be up to the high standards he sets is anyone’s guess. If they are all up to par of this delicious morsel of audio goodness, then I will be having a very good listening year indeed.

Most electronic musician fall under either one of two camps: either the ones that adore analog, or the ones that adore digital. It is rare to find someone who embraces the joys that both bring. This is a key component of Keith’s work, to explore the best of all electronic music and to incorporate it into his work, with all major periods of electronic music represented.

Joy made audible would describe this record well. Everything here is perfect, since he essentially allowed the equipment to arrange the patterns into music (with some input from him of course). Using this analog/digital setup, we hear the crystal purity of “Generator 1” which woozily waves up and down, forming and reforming patterns. Meanwhile, “Generator 7b” has various almost beat patterns, like the beginning of an early LFO song. What really captures the imagination is “Generator 2”. For almost 24 minutes, you are immersed into the nicest wavelengths he could have devised. Then, odd beat patterns form from the same patterns, giving the airy patterns weight.

Considering the deliberate limitations he set for himself, there’s a remarkable amount of diversity on this recording, even within the same track. This is an absolute joy to behold, and it confirms just what makes this guy’s music so special.

Xnobbqx – Sunshine of Your Love 6.3

If anyone’s ever seen the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy” where an isolated bushman discovers a Coca-Cola bottle and must throw it off the edge of the world. Had that bushman Xi been given a guitar and drum set, he might have come up with a more coherent album than this.

Don’t worry; there is no mastery or skill displayed. John Fahey talked about primitivism in music, so here must be the logical conclusion of that idea. The instruments here are badly mangled, with hardly coherent rhythms forming. Everything here seems to be completely against the idea of rhythm, melody, or anything really. And I’d call it noise, but noise generally is easier to get than whatever this is.

Taking all this in isn’t very hard. Having it as removed from any sort of traditional musical genre gives it an interesting take. It’s sort of like listening to The Shaggs as they warmed up. Given the heavy weirdness and the zero hooks, melodies, or coherence to grasp onto, it oddly sucks you in for reasons you can’t actually explain. Plus, its existence outside almost all other musical movements is a nice relief.

Blank Dogs – Under and Under 8.6

You won’t need to skip a single track, since each one is catchy as hell. Like, you won’t be able to get these out of your head once you hear it. And if you like The Cure, then you’ll basically be in heaven.

Most bands mine various AM pop hits, at least those mining the 80s for influence. Blank Dogs turns that around by using industrial and goth as its mainstays. And it doesn’t suffer one bit as a result, but rather focuses on a mostly neglected part of the decade.

Distortion rules over everything. Anything you can distort (vocals, percussion, guitars, synthesizers) gets distorted. Plus, all of the arrangements are kept busy with madcap events running through them, various fast tempos, weird little noises going on in the background, etc. But there’s no denying that pop is deep in the heart of this awesome, reclusive guy.

“No Compass” reminds me of a less messy version of Red Transistor’s “Not Bite”. Dreamier songs can be found in both “Night Night” and “Tin Birds” in particular. “Tin Birds” is so solid, I sort of want there to be some 80s montage dedicated to it. Perfectly hopeful and quirky, it is one of my favorites on the whole album. Paranoia reigns in “Around the Room” which might have been some lost Tones on Tail track.

15 tracks of pure pop, hooky goodness made specifically for those who thought electro clash just lacked that certain genuine feeling. There isn’t a dullard amongst them, and if you miss listening to 80s goth, or wish you knew of more bands who did that, well, here’s one that will never leave your head.

Wive – Pvll 5.9

Combining multiple sources like violins, piano, electronics, drums, and depressed vocals, when this works, it really works. The beginning song gives off the same dejected emotions as A Silver Mount Zion. Actually it is the most uncomfortable, unhappy tracks that make this album worthwhile, any sort of uplifting song ends up falling into so many traps and cliches.

“Toast to Famines” gives you some idea of what sort of dejected music you’re getting into. “Langvage” brings together many elements to create an unsettling, droning track with high-pitches that sound as if they’re about to explode. And their ending track is fantastically weird and creepy.

Unfortunately, much of the album wades around in various forms of mediocrity, either borrowing from sad-sack weird Grandaddy or countless others who have made the journey before. Those good tracks are exquisite, and while the bad ones aren’t abjectly horrible, one wishes that they had perhaps worked on them a little harder, with the focus they gave to the beginning and end of the album.

Eternal Tapestry – The Invisible Landscape 7.6

Immediately we are introduced to a jam already in progress. The volume increasing helps this illusion, indicating that it has been going on for some time and where have you been?

Of course this is a side project of those wonderful people associated with the much better known act Wooden Shjips. This project differs though, they’ve taken away some of the harsh buzzing and grating sounds. We have a more energetic, a (slightly) less druggie influence.

Nothing on here tops “Cathedral of Radiance” or “Temporal Starshine Voyage” but they really don’t need to. Everything is high quality, mining old-school psychedelic vibes. And they’re pretty damn good at it.

Nite Jewel – Good Evening 8.4

Some nice mood music can be found within the half hour of this album’s span. Basically, think of a hook-less, female version of Neon Indian, and you have some idea of what you’re getting yourself into.

Amorphous, pleasantly blurred vocals hang around in the murk long after they’ve already been said. Much of this is sort of vapid, but that’s perfectly fine. She’s comfortable with creating these weird, early 80s type of noises distorted and played at the lowest of sonic quality levels. If this sounded clearer, it really would lack the caressing nature it has here.

“Bottom Rung” gives you a taste of what will be hanging around for the rest of the album’s running length. The rhythm for “Surburbia” hits a bit harder and almost rises out of the echo-y vocals’ murk. In terms of catchiness, “What did he say” comes closest to pop, with a noodling synthesizer pattern adding a level of a melody to hum along to. A few times, you can almost touch what’s going on beyond that deliberate layer lo-fi murk. Whirlwinds of chords flutter by as the drum machine stutters for the celebratory “Weak for me”. The 80s become even more pronounced for the “Heart won’t start” and slow down to a sensual pace for “Universal mind”.

“Artificial Intelligence” sounds just as heavily nostalgic as its name suggests. Jumpy keys bring the “Let’s Go (the two of US together)” a sense of urgency missing from most of the album. Listening to “Chimera” it startles a bit since it sounds so thin compared to what preceded it. “Lover” is a cover.

This is airy, happy mood music. It gives you little to hold onto, for better and worse. But it moves by really quickly, and she has a good sense of song craft, despite the weird take on music in general. Nostalgic shoegaze would be a nice term for this, or chillwave. Take your pick, either one describes it properly.

Women – Public Strain 9.0

Creeping up on me, I’m shocked by the high level of quality. Like, after the moody beginning, things take off in a big way. Definitely not part of the whole “lo-fi” thing, think a more intelligent version of “Girls” and you’re halfway there.

Soft and tender would help to describe a lot of what’s going on here. Their introduction of “Can’t you see” leads up into the burst of energetic guitars of “heat distraction”. Not sure why, but many parts of this remind me of a later-stage version of the Pixies. Yes, I know Pixies were extremely aggressive, but there’s that weird catchiness of theirs that is very noticeable on here. Multiple sections exist for many of these songs, and the builds on them are unique.

Even the slower, milder pieces like “Penal Colony”, “Bells” and the moving “Venice Lockjaw” conjure up images of slowcore bands like Bedhead. They clearly understand what’s preceded, and instead of just regurgitating what came before, they are able to work with the past to create a new whole.

“Pacific Coast Highway”, that schizo song by Sonic Youth pops into my mind whenever I hear the sheer rush of the appropriately named “Drag Open”. Here, we get a tremendous of bizarre energy before coming into one of those delicious rock sweet spots. “Locust Valley” combines the two techniques into something later career Pavement would’ve been proud to call one of its own.

Man, I like to say I love Women, but this solidifies the statement for me.

Daedelus – Daedelus Presents: Happily Ever After 6.8

Alright, so a 50 minute plus mix tape of rave from the early 90s might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, for those with the patience to slough through it, it has a huge selection to choose from. Everything you remember listening to on the radio or experiencing live has been thrown in here in some small way. Yeah, this might not be exactly what you’d expect Daedelus to listen to (probably more jazzy stuff like what he samples) but there is very definitely a good pace to it.

Biggest complaint is in the second half the energy dwindles a bit, since he focuses more exclusively on slower tracks. A minor complaint however, this is still pretty good stuff to groove off of. His humor becomes clear a few times, when he randomly inserts some deliberately cheesy samples in order to mix things up a bit. This does happen again in the more suffering second half of the track.

Not bad, but pay close attention to the first half, which has a huge amount of energy to it.

Cop Shoot Cop – Consumer Revolt 8.9

They were angry people. Nothing on here lets us on the pure unhappiness these people seemed to live in. Lyrically, it is great. You hear the harsh voice shout out the depressed observations. Steve Albini sounds like Joel Osteen compared to this guy, and Shellac can’t reach the bile these guys unleash.

No guitars were used in the recording of this album. Everything is based around two samplers, two basses, and drums. The drums have a bizarre, almost jazz-like quality to them, focusing on small hits along hard, angry hits. Bass blares and seems to be against most conventional forms of melody. Yet despite this unconventionally, it is surprisingly likable. Or perhaps I’m a misanthropic jerk.

Perhaps this is due to its close relationship to bands like DNA, Mars, and other pretty difficult No Wave bands. You can hear it in how it embraces clanging noise as a way to keep the rhythm machine going. That rhythm is probably the best part of it, keeping the atmosphere going. “Lo.Com.Denom.” and “She's like a Shot” are perfect examples of the energetic drumming and bass assault.

“Burn Your Bridges” is nice and nasty, with the increase in tension leading to a great release at the very end, like some sort of industrial meets post-rock feel. Samples are used only to convey the harshest of cynical observations. “Disconnected 666” and “Hurt Me Baby” just contribute to their whole bleak picture.

Ceephax Acid Crew – United Acid Emirates 6.7

Coming out of Planet Mu’s label, Ceephax Acid Crew plays it relatively conservative for the most part. Aphex Twin and his IDM ilk’s influence are very detectable here, as is Luke Vibert’s acid style and light-hearted approach. Unfortunately, Ceephax doesn’t say much of anything new, rather relying on well-worn cliques to help him out. Not that this isn’t fun, quite the opposite.

The bounce and sugary goodness of “Cedric’s Sonnet” begins things on a really high note. In fact, you will have a hard time scrubbing your mind of this one. Catchy without being overly stupid, it is a really smart pop song. “Castilian” sounds like something Crystal Castles would take pride in, if they ever came up with it. Not everything is this good “Commuter” sounds like about a million other similar songs. “Emotinum II” goes on for far too long with rather little to say after all of it.

Originality comes across loud and clear on “Sidney’s Sizzler” which sounds like a completely bipolar track. Oh, this one is truly excellent. As this one continues, you get the wish that he could write songs like this all the time.

So while this isn’t a complete wash of an album, with some really good tracks, it would be nice to see him explore the ideas he had in his best ones, rather than rehashing Aphex Twin and Luke Vibert cliques of goofy samples mixed with over-importance. IDM does still offer artists the chance to break with tradition and offer their own blends, look no further than Clark to see that this is possible. Parts of this album are really worth it, but you do have to filter quite a bit to get to them.

Wolfgang Voigt – Freiland Klaviermusik 5.3

If Conlon Nancarrow ever wondered what his music would sound like on the dance floor, Wolfgang Voigt has an answer for him. This isn’t exactly pretty by any stretch of the imagination, nor does it reach the heights that Wolfgang’s reached in the past. Still, it occasionally can be pretty decent, so long as it remembers that cardinal rule that you get away with a lot if you put a dance beat on it.

For this reason alone, the first half of the album is much easier to get through than the second, which he decided should be almost bereft of beats. Getting through the second is a real slough, and it doesn’t really reward you at all after all that patience.

“Zimmer” by slowing down the piano to a point where it almost sounds like stabs; and the frolicking tempo of “Geduld” are probably the two best tracks on here. Sadly, the rest of it sort of evaporates into a blur of angry, seemingly random piano patterns. “Schweres Wasser” is the only non-beat driven song that works probably, reminding us of his (much better) Gas project.

While Conlon’s music seemed to explore and open up new multiple patterns, this sounds really lazy. First, the piano sounds really cheesy, and he doesn’t do much with the patterns half the time. So you get some very awkward sounding pieces. Wolfgang Voigt has a lot of talent, but hardly any of that is exhibited here.

Roll the Dice – Roll the Dice 7.3

Here is a strong release. Basically, they use patience and sheer length of time as a compositional tool. Also, the use of a real piano adds a nice dynamic between the electronic sounds. Neither side overpowers the other; they work in unison for a created effect.

This is really good rainy day music; it has just enough gray about it to match the slight disappointment of being inside, but also the joy of just laying around. Not that the sounds don’t get intense, “Into the Ground” begins the CD’s second, more aggressive half.

“Swing” sprawls out towards something undefined, with pieces of an almost-melody floating underneath the electronic rhythms. “Axee” remains one of my favorites, beginning with very simple piano playing; it eventually evolves into something much more expressive, accompanied by a bizarre rhythm section. Finally a synthesizer comes in, but only to compliment, not overwhelm the piano section.

Appropriately titled song “Undertow” starts out inconspicuous, but ends in the closest thing to intense noise as the group allows itself. Maniac energy is unleashed in the second half, threatening to explode, but always avoiding that obvious conclusion. Then it simply ends instead.

A really unusual, but very authentic sounding-release, it is worth checking out. There’s very little that comes to mind besides the few other bands that do this so well, like Emeralds and their ilk. But the organic instrumentation is definitely what makes this a true joy.

Michael McNabb – Invisible Cities 9.2

Computer music from the 1980s with heavy Philip Glass and Steve Reich influences. These six songs help to bridge the gap between repetitive modern classical and more digitally realized music. Essentially Michael updates the music in a way that is tasteful, while still covering some new ground. And despite being made in the absolute nadir of the mid-80s, it avoids most (but not all) of the 80s clichés.

A bizarre mechanical noise like something loading comes into to play after the music reaches an unstable tempo. Pieces of what Mark Fell would begin to explore can be heard in this first piece “City of No Resistance” complete with proper tunings and such.

“City of Wind” better shows off Michael McNabb’s abilities as a programmer and composer. Keep in mind that he made his own programs for this sort of sound in the early 80s, and your mind gets a little blown.

A sense of longing pervades the “City of Desire” which is appropriately named. Pieces of songs, snippets of something else keep on coming in and out of focus. Since he’s not exactly tacky, what those snippets are refuse to be fully revealed, adding to a great sense of mystery. Jim O’Rourke would later employ a lot of these sorts of techniques in his more “experimental” albums but without McNabb’s rigor, like “I’m happy that I’m half-assing it 1,2,3,4”.

Chill out room music can be heard echoing around in “Hidden City”. No beats of course, but those lush patterns are unmistakable. And this is far before 92, when that sort of thing really took off. “City of Reflection” sounds very Steve Reich and Terry Riley; it is actually up to those standards.

Originally composed as a ballet piece, that explains a great deal of the movement and fast tempos behind this. The dance company performed this based off of Italo Cavino’s novel “Invisible Cities” which recounts an allegorical meeting between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. As Marco describes Kublai’s cities to him, things get more and more vivid, much like most of this album.

Bizarrely, this reminds me of a meeting I had as a child (around 6 or 7) when personal computers first came out. I met a family friend, whose son was around my age. Excitedly he showed me his first computer and how he programmed it. Yet he was still afraid of the closet because, you know, he was just a child. That meeting blew my mind now when I think of it, how a kid growing up in some of run-down part of Queens could figure out how to do that, yet be afraid of imaginary creatures. By now that kid’s worth millions probably. Guess this gives me that same sense of discovery, of the bridge between the better known classical staples and the more recent digital recordings influenced by this.

Rhythm & Sound – Rhythm & Sound 8.3

Moritz von Oswald and Mark Ernestus started work as Basic Channel, a dub-flavored approach to electronic techno minimalism. For this outing, they decided to use those elements from their previous outfit to inform this update of dub.

Bass bleeds through the album hitting nice and heavy like it should. Evolutions of these tracks occur slowly and are immediately hard to detect, but they are well thought out with special emphasis placed on working around the groove. “No Partial” places more emphasis on the direct impact of the sound than “Trace” which sounds like it is coming from some seashore far away, only barely able to focus. “Trace” sounds a lot like the effects used in the Basic Channel incarnation Radiance, so it is definitely a real treat. “Mango Drive” rules so hard. A beat starts up immediately, and the fusion of techno and dub is very real. It happily bounces around, and the melody dances with the groove in a satisfying way. This track is pure win.

“Distance” begins the march towards a different type of music that goes forward and shows what dub and techno can do with further exploration. “Distance” uses silence as a friend, and barely establishes a groove. “Smile” has the only vocals on the album, which are a little cheesy lyrically, but sort of give evidence as to why most of these are instrumentals. If you focus purely on the voice, and not on the lyrics, you get a better impression. “Outward” and “Carrier” give off a sweaty vibe than what preceded it, with greater emphasis on how techno can help dub recover some of its lost magic.

“Imprint” solidifies this view, and is a mammoth of a track. Lasting almost 17 minutes long, it outdoes everything before it in terms of subtlety and patience.

This album was originally taken from various 12s and such, but it does work together as a whole. Essentially this shows how Moritz and Mark’s taste can take something long thought gone (like modern dub) and re-energize it.

Stützpunkt Wien 12 - UFO Beobachtungen 93-95 6.2

A bad thing about so much dance music is its tendency to age badly. Despite some great enthusiasm and overwrought noises, we basically see the side effects of that right here on this release.

Mego released this as its first non-founder record. Basically, you have a metronome that pulses away as more and more rhythmic effects get thrown together to create a really sweaty feeling track. This is 1a, 1b features even more aggressive rhythms before some very bizarre sound is introduced and allows all the chaos to dissipate. Together these form the best part of the album, and thankfully they are half the album. Listening, you get the feeling that you’re in some sort of obscure club drenched in grossness and happy about it.

Unfortunately, the problem lies in the fact that it is only half. The latter part of this offers some half-baked experiments with sound that really can’t hold a candle to most of the stuff in Mego’s catalog or what preceded it. And the sounds used make it very clear to you that this was made in the early 90s, and not in that nice nostalgic way. But rather in that “Wow, that’s sort of cheesy” kind of way.

This is a perfect example that dispels the myth that something obscure must be good. Sure, it isn’t bad, but it doesn’t do anything memorable or noteworthy. It works well as a decent piece of slightly experimental dance techno to put in the background and occasionally pay attention to, because your attention will certainly drift by the latter half of this record, if not sooner.

Holy Ghost! – Static on the Wire 7.0

Here’s a pretty decent four tracks from Holy Ghost!, who apparently will be releasing a full length sometime soon. Until then, we have this to mull over.

Basically, this stays pretty true to the DFA template: love of the 80s, good dance, funk, and more keyboards than most would be comfortable with. And while it isn’t as good as LCD Soundsystem (obviously not as hyper active) or Hercules and the Love Affair (not as direct) it still has some good moments in it.

“Static on the Wire” begins things off right, with a good mix of smooth vocals, floating synthesizers and the right amount of energy. It is probably the most original thing and happiest one on here. “Say my name” is much cooler, energy wise, and has a much larger buildup to it. Daft Punk’s influence definitely asserts itself on “I will come back” and “I know I hear” with the latter being the better song, complete with some interesting breakdowns at the end.

A full LP should be able to help them flesh their sound out more, and I eagerly await it. Right now, they have the right influences and it sounds like they’re clearly aware of what their predecessors have done.

Sun Araw – On Patrol 8.1

First off, let me try to define the sort of musical universe this guy lives in. Among his other projects are Pocahaunted (at least until very recently) and Magic Lantern. Copious amounts of mind-altering psychedelics may or may not have been ingested by said performer Cameron Stallones in order to get this thing to full bloom. But based off of the slow, tropical daze of the music, I’m convinced more towards the former.

California has produced a lot of this hazy, almost pop shrouded in great clouds of reverb, pedals, and painfully slow tempos. James Ferraro’s one billion projects come to mind. If none of the aforementioned bands mean anything to you, then you might be in for a shock. If you are aware, then this should be fairly familiar.

“Ma Holo” begins the album with a bizarre ceremonial offering and ritualistic chanting. Instead of continuing with this, “Beat Cop” offers some sort of funky molasses jam complete with that wah-wah guitar (don’t worry, if you love wah-wah guitar, you’re in luck, it is basically everywhere here). Waiting game music “The Stakeout” comes in and offers you the closest thing to tension in the whole album. “Conga mind” draws things out a bit too long, but eventually settles into various organ chord changes. Lurching forward, perfect for those head-nodding fools, is the weird joy of “Deep Cover”. Melody almost emerges out of the muck for “High Slide”. “The Stakeout Reprise” does nothing but add feedback effects to the previous stakeout song. Finally we get to “Dimension Alley” which is a low key, calming track. In hindsight, he should have ended it here since “Holodeck Blues” though it has its moments, is basically too long and uninteresting to hold your attention for long.

Pretty good music honestly, especially considering how many people have started mining this sort of sound. Better than most in the field (though not all).

Gert-Jan Prins – Risk 9.1

Gert-Jan Prins is able, single-handedly, to somehow harness the brutal physical nature of hardcore, funk and punk from harsh radio waves. Yes, that may be hard to believe, but over the course of these 13 tracks, he does exactly that. All equipment used he built himself, apparently he’s been building them since he was a kid, making him a really sick fuck. What kid practices making songs with static noise?

Anyway, none of these tracks are titled, but the first one sort of sucks you in with a massive groove of distorted bass sounds punctuated by static (almost like a snare). In a realm this abstract with sound, it is pretty interesting how he’s able to relate to far more popular music forms using an extremely limited language. Oh yeah, you might also want to be careful of the extreme piercing high end on this, which introduces itself in the second track. That won’t be the first time you run into it.

Considering the fact he’s using tortured radio waves, you encounter relatively few recognizable radio snippets. Usually they’re included to increase the drama and tension of the track (like in the third, where, at a pivotal moment, you hear a sudden rush of an orchestra). Or in the longest track, the 8th, where the samples seem to be on the edge of your perception, giving you just enough to grab onto as the groove moves on some breakneck speed.

Much of this gives off the impression that yes, this is what punk would sound like in some updated, forward thinking way. The guy makes his own equipment, the music is very, very in your face, yet there are actual grooves and hooks occasionally. Think of what Yoshihide Otomo said about Mego in general “they were like punk rock, doing punk things with electronic and improved music.” (Improved stands for improvised, in case you were wondering).

Unfortunately, Mego no longer exists in the way it once did, now being Editions Mego and seeming less focused on noisy excursions like this, which is a shame because this is such a strong release. Funk is often said to be not as far away from noise as one might expect, and here it is proven. Hearing the juxtaposition between the heavily treated and lesser treated noise is a real treat, and, at only 19 minutes in length, easily digestible. Just be warned, this gets very loud and quiet on a dime but completely worth the effort.

Experimental Aircraft – Love for the Last Time 8.4

Here is a poor, sad band. It comes up with such a nice way of doing things, of doing what Sonic Youth wishes it could still do (rock) and gets no attention. Every song on here is excellent, and it burns through them quicker than the track times would suggest.

Rachel’s voice has that calm, cool feel to it which gives the rest of the band more emotional depth (in case they needed it). “Symphony” explains what you’re about to get into, as the music sort of sweeps you up and the guitars fly. In a better world “Johnny” would be a hit single, but sadly that is not the case. Even when Johnny breaks down into its noisy elements, we never lose sight of that rhythm, groove, and oddly melody, which breaks through the noise.

Much of this sounds like early Stereolab, before they decided they wanted to do french pop for the rest of their career. “Contemplative Silence” does exactly that, allowing for a quiet center. Even the throwaway guitar bits sound like something Sonic Youth did back in its cool late 80s heyday. Then the build comes and the release of pure great waves of sound.

“Suspended” has been placed on so many mix CDs I can’t even count them. Starting from pure silence, it builds up to become delicate, lush before reaching the most perfect 30 seconds at exactly the 3 minute mark. Most bands would let this play out for like 5 minutes, since it is just so blissful a jam. They know that they have other things to do, and proceed onto the last track.

Like its name “Elephant” is the largest and most cumbersome of tracks. The drums hit hard, with multiple sections. All of it is physical, releasing large amounts of sound and volume onto you, the lucky listener.

Yeah, it isn’t exactly simple happy music. At its happiest, it still lurks around, gloomy. But like the best of the gloom bands (think Interpol) it is able to really connect it ways most bands choose not to (or are unable to do so). Experimental Aircraft have other albums besides this one, but this is their best in my opinion.

1-Speed Bike - Looks Like Velvet, Smells Like Pee 5.5

This guy is the drummer of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, so that sort of explains the humorous titles of most of his songs. Usually they are slanted in a satirical way, to sort of entertain you.

Considering that this guy is a drummer, the beats on here are pretty basic. Perhaps he owns a rather old drum machine, but it gives most tracks a sort of lurching quality to them. His policy regarding samples is pretty basic as well to just sort of let them exist on their own with little interference. Perhaps that’s a result of his bare bones approach to the music, but at times it does end up having the fried weirdness quality of some of the Strangulated Beatoff’s work.

That’s only at times. Most of the time, it sort of acts as some lo-fi dance act which lacks the punch of most dance. Distortion is probably the most interesting thing on here, when the sounds get a little louder and crunchier, they really succeed (like “The Day I Defeated the Dutch Shelf Toilet” and “2 Clubland for Politics”). Unfortunately, a lot of this doesn’t sound half as interesting the second or third time around. It is best to approach these songs as a sort of pleasant background music more than anything else. And in that respect, it does succeed in creating a sort of alternative to heavily produced dance acts with the minimal approach. Still, it does sound really lazy and lacks the kind of power you’d expect from someone associated with Godspeed and their ilk.

Jean-Claude Vannier - L'enfant assassin des mouches 9.3

Here’s the man who created those legendary arrangements for Serge Gainsbourg’s masterpiece “Histoire de Melody Nelson” about a lecherous old man lusting for the beautiful young girl. Without having to appease anyone, he’s able to go out on his own, and take his arrangements as far as he wants. And he wants them to be pretty out there.
Included in these arrangements are piano, random noise, heavy breathing, gunshots, and choruses, funky as hell guitar rifts, insect chirps, violins, horns, bass, and virtually whatever he could get his hands on.

“L'Enfant La Mouche Et Les Allumettes” begins with environmental sounds and various sound effects. Only halfway through the song does a guitar contort in a way expected of actors in your average porno. In other words, it is absolutely fantastic. “L'Enfant Au Royaume Des Mouches” takes the opposite approach, to begin straight forward with what sounds almost like a normal song before delving into a chorus sent from heaven, it is so perfect that you’re a bit blown away.

For the next few tracks, he delves into lighter forms of classically-influenced tracks, and you get the idea that he wants to take the most ridiculous of instruments and make them respectable. Somehow, he pulls off this amazing act.

“Les Garde Volent Au Secours Du Roi” sort of summarizes everything he’s ever worked on, from guitars, into soundtrack music, into some guy hearing shots near him and totally freaking out. “Mort Du Roi Des Mouches” sort of helps us out with coming to an understanding about what has just happened, with the last few songs being rather short and a sort of farewell to the listener.

This is the sort of weird album so many artists hope to make: one that is not only ambitious, but actually succeeds in those attempts. Often in sampling they talk about how some parts of songs are amazing (like a certain length of clip) and will reuse those pieces. For this one, all the pieces work; there is no dead time with this. All of it works despite everything logically stating otherwise.

Antena – Camino Del Sol 8.3

Here is a real treat: a French 80s band obsessed with Bossa Nova, cheap synthesizers and pure joy. For that is what the album is, setting down the path taken by Stereolab (whose take on pop music has a lot in common) but even more Beach House.

And what would a Bossa Nova band do but create a cover of the “The Girl from Ipanema” called “The Boy from Ipanema”, which sounds pretty dark. From there, they elaborate on the Bossa Nova theme with surprising creatively; even including cheap keyboards and horns (sadly the horns really do suffer from those early 80s).

“Seaside Weekend” sounds like a stripped down late Stereolab song, as does “Frantz”, matching their vocal style and casual style. Beach House might be pretty familiar with the band, since any song that’s keyboard-intensive has an extremely similar style to the low-energy kind Beach House employs. The only differences being the heavier aspect of Beach House’s work (more on the drone aspect). “Ingenuous” displays this, but “Camino del Sol” shows this correlation extremely well, sounding like a song Beach House would’ve employed on their first two albums. “To Climb the Cliff” sounds like a sped-up Beach House song.

“Silly Things” does a good job of tapping into the Bossa Nova spirit, sounding like something Astrid Gilbert might have done, complete with the awkward English language delivery. And for a French band, they have the celebration of the French culture song “Les Demoiselles des Rochefort” which is a bit much, but still fun.

Overall, this is a really surprisingly good record. A lot of bands clearly took at least some of their experiments with light rock and bossa nova to heart, with great results. And even if no band decided to follow their route (which obviously didn’t happen), their light approach and summery feel is still greatly appreciated in a world where too many bands take themselves too seriously.

Masayoshi Fujita and Jan Jelinek - Bird, Lake, Objects 7.7

Remember “Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records”? There, we got to listen in to some sort of digitally conjured jazz band, transmitting from far away. No sudden sounds; just smooth crackles and lush tones emanating from your headphones (at least that’s the ideal place to listen to it). It was music made exactly to be listened to at home, and created against the idea of being blasted loud.

So what does that have to do with this album? Well, basically, this album is a more ambient version of that one, without any of the pops or small percussion-like elements to guide us. It does have a rhythm, but it’s a bit more understated. Essentially then, this is a pretty excellent group of songs.

Things start of lightly with “Undercurrent” which sets the mood for most of the album. Basically, if you were familiar with Markus Popp’s song based project “So” you have some idea of what is going on here. Masayoshi plays the vibraphone while Jelinek reconfigures the original. Both sort of stay calm for most of the album, allowing the ambient to flow.

“Workshop for Modernity” only solidifies the extreme Oval influence, sounding fun and woozy. “I’ll change your life” bring us back to the genteel nature of the first track, and “Waltz (a lonely crowd)” introduce the only noticeable percussion elements in the whole album. The rest follows in this path, only painfully breaking the casual mood by introducing some (too loud) sounds in the song “IA AI”. Excluding this little hiccup, it is a solid, engaging work. Much more subdued than anything Jan has done with Triosk, this is about as ambient as Jan gets. And even though it only brings up ghosts of his great past, that’s still plenty enough.

Deadbeat summer

Body Language came on first, looking like some sort of approximation of Animal Collective. The keyboards were all there and they looked way too happy. Like, why would they ever be so cheerful? And the tiny xylophone boded ill, like they were about to smother the audience with cuteness.

None of that actually happened; it just existed in my mind. What really happened was I got blown away by the sheer joy and energy these guys brought. Vocals were perfect, vocoders gave additional funky joy (think Daft Punk’s use of them) and even cowbell came together into a delightful smorgasbord of fun. And they didn’t just feel like a group together to make music, it looked as if they genuinely enjoyed what they did and were friends. For one song, they started it out together clapping as they stood up (or sat down, in the case of the drummer). Plus, that drummer was uniformly excellent, but as an audience member, he was perhaps a bit more drunk than I would’ve liked him to be.

While they had some audience banter, they talked about how much they loved Brooklyn, to which someone shouted out “Play Tomorrow” half-serious. But their happy electronic funk and harmonious vocals were a shock. Usually I intensely dislike opening acts, but I appreciated these guys a lot. Hopefully they get a ton of attention, their performance was so excellent. Maybe even an album instead of this tiny EP you offered us?

A couple of Virginians came up on stage after this, calling themselves Wild Nothing. Nothing was wild about them. They played a very conservative version of early 90s rock, think a less adventurous Mojave3 and you get some idea. Don’t get me wrong, they certainly know what they are doing. But their stage presence was almost pure zero, and the music didn’t fit well between the band before or after it. Perhaps if they mucked things up a bit, or maybe loosened up their extremely restrained attitude, I might have enjoyed them more. Or in a more rock setting they might have been more appropriate. Either way, they weren’t bad, but as I stood there listening to them, I sort of felt like they were misplaced with the rest of the evening.

Thankfully they did happen to remark that “People were making out to them, so they must have been doing something right”. So to be fair, they played “that” type of slowly entrancing music. Also, to be fair, those people made out during pretty much every damn part of the show.

Some kids behind me seemed bummed that they didn’t play “Chinatown” and they got their set cut too short. Most of the audience didn’t seem to be freaking out as much as these three were, and it didn’t feel as if the audience cared either which way. Basically, everyone there came for Neon Indian.

Neon Indian rocked. One of the key requirements of being in Alan Palomo’s band is you need some unreasonable amount of hair. Hair you can’t be expected to do much with besides look cool as shit when you’re bashing the hell out of a drum set, or playing weird noises out of a guitar. I don’t know why I was so underwhelmed by this, but they all looked like the images I had formed of them in my mind, of some freaked out Texans. Good thing they didn’t disappoint me.

“Local Joke” began things up, and as soon as those drums hit, the audience, whose breath had been oddly held, exhaled a great big sigh of relief. Or a giant cloud of wacky tabacci, only the wackiest. All the distorted weirdness, bizarre guitar noises, and hard-hitting percussion were there.

But none of that compared to the sheer love everyone had for “Deadbeat Summer”. When people realized what was going on, everyone started dancing. The entire room shook with intoxicated bodies, and I got beer spilled on the top of my head from someone on the balcony. No hard feelings random stranger, it was a pretty great track. Even the make-out people took a break from making out to actually listen to what was going on (Neon Indian had the last laugh though, as the two made out, the guitarist came over and got uncomfortably close to the both of them, which they felt sort of embarrassed about).

Pretty much every song you ever wanted to hear Neon Indian play off their one almost album they got to, along with some nice enjoyable instrumental weirdness in between songs. Alan spoke to people with a sincere enthusiasm in his voice, and introduced the rest of the band. Ronnie was the freaked out guitarist who looked like the guy who knew of every cool band several months ahead of you, and the drummer looked like the guy you played hack y sack with outside the library at your liberal arts college. The girl looked almost normal, like she lived an almost normal, non-freaked out existence. Of course Alan looked like the guy who majored in Philosophy and would be great fun to get smashed with.

And since we asked for it, they included a Vega song for everyone, which were decidedly more rock-out based then any of the Neon Indian stuff.

Overall, I was really pleased. I had my worries, since early on Neon Indian’s concerts were told to be utter garbage. Thankfully, it looks as if they overcame that initial problem. Some kick-ass shit up in here.

Richard Chartier – A Field for Mixing 5.6

Minimal has a hard time describing Richard Chartier’s work. For one, they are extremely quiet with moments of pure silence. Even the more recent louder work he’s done tend to be rather quiet (like his archival works which sound more like Zoviet France) with slow moving changes (his works tend to stretch out).

These two pieces use various field recording mixed in with low-energy drones. Yes, he has been using drone more often, but this one feels a bit aimless. Sure, the field recordings give it a sense of life that his music has previously ignored (most of his pieces are almost decidedly inhuman in their pristine digital nature) but it doesn’t really attract attention or interest the way Thomas Koner’s work does.

In fact, that’s my biggest problem with these two pieces. Much of it sounds like a derivative work of Thomas Koner’s “La Barca” or his less romantic, even more surreal piece “Une Topographie Sonore - Col De Venice” which documented every sound in stunning detail. By not focusing enough on either the field recording or digital alterations, it just sounds too blurred of a mess. Yes, occasionally there are bits that come in so well that you wish they could last longer, but Richard pulls away from these great, fleeting moments all too quickly.

Overall, it is not a terrible work, but it seems to lack an identity. This represents an awkward situation of Richard’s: while moving away from digital into more organic sounds, he has not really molded the two together into a satisfying whole. And this is a shame.

Chris Weisman & Greg Davis – Northern Songs 8.8

Greg Davis provides electronics, and Chris Weisman provides vocals with guitar, just so we get the technical aspects out of the way. Yes, it is a duo, with two seemingly unrelated musicians (singer/songwriter alongside abstract electronics) but it works perfectly to capture a sort of updated psychedelic vibe. Since so much of it isn’t instantly recognizable, it rewards those who give it multiple listens.

Shards of noise race around for the first minute or so. This might be where the less adventurous types decide to head off. Don’t would be the short answer, this part is absolutely necessary to get you introduced to the odd sonic vocabulary they have here. Electronics slowly spread out into longer, shimmering notes. Organs can be recognized out of the mess, as it slowly turns into sun-soaked greatness.

The singer (Chris Weisman) has the perfect delivery for all the weirdness going on, sounding a little too calm for the commotion, which brings it to the sensitivity of the music: even though it works on an abstract level, the few lyrics actually help to heighten the emotional attachment to the music. “Christalline” does this pretty well, starting off conventionally with Greg adding only slight sounds to Chris’s song. Then, halfway through the song, it goes into a groove with some guitar solo trying to express itself through so much distortion.

“Hat or Night” has some lost demo tape quality to it, complete with the hiss of what might be tape noise. “We won’t survive” starts out with meditative sounds of the outside, of birds singing and occasional gong sounds. The end just rephrases Chris’s guitar playing with electronic effects. “The Nine Times” expands into infinity, with Chris’s lyrics and guitar melding with Greg’s work to sort of space out. It is probably one of the most beautiful pieces on here, and it has some really great work on the effects, like the music is trying to float away from you, shouting as it goes. “Steaming bowl” gives the impression of carnival music on ether, and the lyrics have the same loopy feeling.

Listening to this, I’m sort of amazed at how original it all sounds. The closest comparison I could think of would be some of Gastr del Sol’s more abstract work. Unlike that project, this one has a greater emotional resonance. Even at its most abstract and loopy, Chris and Greg make you feel the absolute joy of the music. It is a celebratory music, and hopefully they get more attention, since this is an adventurous and lovable album.

Red Krayola – Parable of Arable Land 10.0

Mayo Thompson is the man and I can’t state that hard enough. Here’s a guy, who, in the late 1960s, was not only politely asked not to play in Berkeley, he was given money not to do so ($10). Apparently he freaked out the hippies too much. Anybody who is too weird for the acid fried social refugees is a friend of mine. And it wasn’t like this was a one-off; he made some pretty excellent albums after his first one. But this one rocks like no other. Even as I play this, I see a fly buzz around drunkenly around the speakers, disoriented by the sound emanating from within. This is clearly a good sign.

Now we’re treated to an instant barrage of the most indulgent of noise, which are called “Free Form Freakouts” for our reference. Don’t worry; the name delivers. Each one of these freakouts consists of 50 people or so getting together and making random noise. For one of them, a girl tries to keep a beat by rubbing two matchsticks, but fails in her attempt to bring structure to this rollicking chaos. Titled songs don’t fare much better, but do appear to have some loose structure.

Lyrically, it is hilarious. “Eating babies for nourishment”, “I got in my pocket a hurricane fighter plane” are among some of the funnier moments, but not limited to these. His delivery has a smart-ass attitude towards it, which probably blew away his audiences (he dressed extremely conservatively usually with a tie and at least vest to further fuck with heads).

At no point do you think these guys know how to play that well. That’s part of the fun, how crazed and incompetent it is. Later on, you’ll have Jad Fair and all those others doing similar things, but he started it to some degree. Instead of being intent on coherent songs, Parable focuses on fun and losing its mind. Parts of this do get somewhat graspable, in a perfect world “Hurricane Fighter Plane” would’ve become a top 40 hit.

What’s amazing about this huge amount of energy, general incoherence, and freaked out craziness is how little attention they got at the time. Blown off as a bunch of druggies, they unfortunately didn’t stay around along enough to make a huge amount of music together, though Mayo recycled the band’s name through numerous permutations. Even now, when LCD Soundsystem did their pissing contest of a song “Losing my Edge” these guys didn’t get a glance, despite another kooky member (Captain Beefheart) getting an honorable mention.

Listen to all the way through and watch it suck you in. For a few months, I surrendered myself to this unstable beast of an album and only listened to this. And I’m not referring to the length, it’s a short album, but it demands a lot. You have to throw usual requirements like technical expertise, hooks, and any bit of normalcy out the window. Once you hear it, you cannot forget it; it is a true trip in the greatest and best sense of the word. Parts of this will stick with you for some unforeseen period of time, perhaps the rest of your weird life.

This spawned so many great musical movements from it; you can hear bits of indie rock, industrial, noise, etc in its weird meanderings. But if you give it a chance, you’ll see exactly how brilliant this all was. And why Mayo Thompson is the coolest man on the damn planet.

JLIAT - So What Do You Think I Should Do? 7.1

*Note: Start MP3 from the lowest volume and work your way up to a volume that you find comfortable. Due to the harshness and suddenness of the track’s beginning, this is the best way of approaching the 37 minute piece. No fade, no introduction, he gets right to the non-point.

Thankfully this is offered as a free MP3, making your job of finding this somewhat easier. Essentially JLIAT works in either formats of conceptual art (like random clicking or blank CDs) or extreme noise. Here we have the noise.

And what blistering sounds it has. Listening to this in really good headphones, you get the feeling that he built up this track tiny piece by piece. Occasionally you get the feeling like you’re hearing ultra-distorted radio waves, but that might just be the over-saturation of sound. Every possible frequency is filled with a massive amount of sound and distortion, with almost a Zen-like calm coming over you as the track progress. It is simply so much noise; you might as well just wait for it to steamroll you over and surrender.

In terms of physical sound, this is really harsh. There are hardly any of the letups you’d expect even from your usual noise artist (Hell, even Masonna lets his pieces breathe compared to this). When you listen to this, you are trapped inside of whatever is going on in James Whitehead’s sick, twisted mind. The sound field is really active, and it dwells on absolutely nothing at any point. It is moving much more quickly than you could possibly imagine. Think of Ryoji Ikeda’s pulse like speeds for his most recent work, and you get an idea of the pace, at least. Otherwise, it is really hard to describe something so all-encompassing and fully engrossing.

This is NOT something you’ll be returning to often, but it does have its charms. Sheer volume wise, it is intense, alongside the sheer amount of material it shreds through. You’ll be hard-pressed to find something this sonically confrontational. And when it ends, you get to appreciate just how loud and dominating that experience was.

The Samps – Samps EP 7.5

A mutant hybrid of cheesy samples fused together to make some sort of enjoyable dance and pop music. Every little stitch is readily noticeable, there is no polish whatsoever on any of these tracks, which provides part of the charm of them in the first place.

Without polish, these are really likable, as they feel like they are being assembled as you listen to them. One of the main results of this approach is the busy aspect of the compositions. At no point would someone call this “minimal” besides referring to the small amount of equipment and/or programs used to hold the whole enterprise together.

“Wizards Sleeve” and “Thys” are the two interludes that separate the 4 main tracks. “FXNC” is surprisingly funky, and “YellowJacket” starts off with a distorted sample right out of the worst of Steely Dan before transforming into some hypnotic trance.

“Hyperbolic” quickly turns into a nice ride of beats and distorted chorus, before in the middle of the song, the best little funky synth comes in and takes the whole song to an even higher level. “Peppergood” leaves things off with a happy feeling. All of this happens very quickly and it happens to be a great example of how a lack of equipment or training should not prevent you from making music.

DJ Yo-Yo Dieting – Severed Complexion Mix 8.2

Imagine if corporate rap and hip-hop radio started huffing paint. Like, really inhaled the stuff and attempted to do its day job. Pieces of music repeated needlessly for undetermined times, the tempos slowing down further and further into a skeletal shuffle. It huffs and puffs as it tries in vain to come up with something coherent, but bits of advertisements and pointless DJs bleed through the proceedings.

Now picture it recorded and released to the unsuspecting public. Sure, some might call it lazy tape manipulation, but there’s more going on around here. Ghostly transmissions come up, and attempt to turn down the energy of rap with something that has delayed gratification. Major parts of the songs are removed, to show the gross structure on the verge of collapse (which it never quite does).

Yeah, there’s those underground hip hop heroes like Prefuse 73, J Dilla, who excel or excelled at making some seriously interesting and original compositions. DJ Yo-Yo Dieting answers to the beat of a different drummer, following the template set by V/VM records to bring up a middle finger to the original songs, deliberately basterdizing them almost beyond recognition of rhythm. “Almost” being the key word, for this is more entertaining than it should be.

Dadaist deconstruction has never been so much. And the variety of samples that he uses in the album help make the proceedings seem to fly by. I’ve returned to this album more than I originally intended. There’s a lot going on within the looping, and DJ Yo-Yo Dieting seems to understand that. Pacing-wise, it is perfect and some of the samples he uses will have you scratching your head in vain trying to figure out what’s going on. Don’t bother; he’s an expert at this stuff.

Mike Patton – Mondo Cane 4.9

No one doubts Mike Patton’s ability to sing in Italian. He’s fluent in it, and clearly can sing it well enough. The problem lies in his sincerity. For all the bombast he puts into the arrangements, it comes off as way too tongue in cheek to be taken seriously. Plus, his voice, skilled as it is, can’t really portray anything seriously.

That is a shame, because some of these arrangements are wonderful. Not all, and again, that have to do with Mike Patton’s taste. Often it can start out promising, only to immediately dive into parody. Also, the sheer demented joy of some of these work well only in his other bands, but not in this context. If you want the originals of these, go listen to Ennio Morricone, he did it first and without all the irony.

Writing this is difficult, because there’s a lot of Mike Patton’s stuff I do enjoy, like Mr. Bungle and Faith No More. Those two bands weren’t adversely affected by Mike’s penchant for goofy lyrics, irony, and mocking vocals. For every time you hear his voice, it never reaches the emotion that the backing music is supporting, and this disconnect gets really annoying.

Obviously, it isn’t a complete wash. Despite these major faults, some of the songs (like the earlier ones, and in particular the first one) still are able to succeed on some level. But never as much as you’d like them to, which is where the disappointment with this album lies.

Robert Curgenven – Oltre 7.9

Here we have a warm, inviting record complete with heavy dollops of bass frequencies and crackles from the vinyl. Essentially, we’re listening to the decay of Robert Curgenven’s “Transperence” dubplates, and hearing various bits of guitar feedback (tastefully done, of course) and field recordings. Brought together, it is a surprisingly enjoyable listen that subtly sucks you into its world.

William Basinski does this sort of study of decay, but here it feels like it is much more fully realized. And the field recordings add quite a bit to it, making you more hyper-aware of your surroundings. Small buzzes, little clicks from the vinyl, it sounds like an alive, living and breathing environment.

Freiband did this sort of thing with his CD “Microbes” on the Ritornell label in 2001, from obscured original material. Like that, this gives only hints of what originally had been on those great dubplates. But unlike that release, each one of these pieces feels fuller and better realized.

Pacing is ideal, it starts from a slowly floating drone, gets more depth in the second track, by the third track it becomes very heavy with the crackling of vinyl and heavy (dub?) type bass. The fourth track is easily the most aggressive and industrial part of the release and it serves as sort of the climax of the album, getting rather loud and bothered. Everything gets ended off with the light sounds of rainfall and a lazy, light sort of bass at the end, a “coming down” if you will.

His treatment of the field recordings is stellar as well, and they are often right on the periphery of your perception. Drone often gets a little indulgent, but this avoids that cruel fate. Robert make drone music exactly how it should be, incorporating the greatness of William Basinski’s decay experiments alongside those of Luc Ferrari’s most hands-off approaches. Yes, the process here is that important, but without the rigor and discipline, this wouldn’t be half as good. This is probably the first LINE release I’ve listened to and been blown away by in a long time.

Connan Mockasin – Please Turn Me into the Snat 7.6

Warning (and this is important): the tricky part of liking this album has to do with the vocals. Basically, see if you can tolerate for the first song, which is less than 3 minutes long. The singer sounds like some sort of castrated elf, so if this is something you can tolerate, you’re in for a real treat. If not, then nice seeing you.

Now, if you can tolerate the vocals, you’ll notice similarities between this and Grizzly Bear. Like Grizzly Bear, they turn the volume down rather than up. Though similar, this stuff is considerably more low-key. More of mood music than anything else, there’s a real deal of diversity. From lounge-y jazz, to spaced-out jams, it has a nice range to the events.

Unfortunately, things sort of suffer after the freak out exercise of “Forever Dolphin Love”, but that’s not a terrible worry. By that time, you’re about 2/3s of the way through the album. And although things seem a bit anti-climatic after that song, they are by no means insufferable. Plus, the short length of the album works in its favor, and allows it to linger just long enough.

Shit and Shine – ‘229 2299 Girls against Shit’ 9.6

Often you hear the phrase “the music is like getting punched in the face” but rarely does it ever apply. In Shit and Shine’s case, they don’t punch you as much as they almost suffocate you with gleeful repetition and unbelievably high volumes. Noise rock wishes they rocked this hard.

Things start off with an extremely high pitched shrill noise that blasts into right into the middle of things. From there, you’re taken down some bizarre avenues with multiple drummers and sonic equivalents of glorious car crashes. Most of this is mixed at an ungodly level and hits harder than that wimpy puss known as Merzbow.

Honestly, here is where the cathedral of erotic misery lies. Even the album’s cover gives some hint of the perversion that is advertised. “Penthouse is Must” give you the feel for some seriously creepy early 80s band gone very wrong. “20 Years” starts out with a rollicking jam before getting into the dark stuff. “Girls against Shit” drenched in huge amounts of distortion, random sound clips of auto racing, and someone asking “Don’t look at my face” and the only intelligible part of a conversation going “Some Slut”. Full of threatened violence, uncomfortable moments of silence, it has just as much balls and guts as what proceeded it. “Hotel Denmark” contains much of this same, unspoken threat and subtly behind it.

Dark isn’t the only color here. “The Cusp of Innocence, Prettily” is truly insane, with some absolutely stupid Englishmen singing their quaint nonsense as the guitars scream in to put a stop to it. “Shit No!” contains the most normal song, a goopy dance song. “Pissing on a Shed” starts and stops on a dime, adding to the confusion of the (poor or fortunate, take your pick) listener.

Everything (even the live song here “Roberts Church Problem”) is played through an unheard level of distortion. And the distortion compliments the already chaotic atmosphere of the proceedings. But it can’t cover up the huge amount of talent needed for this sort of thing. While they’d like you to believe that they are the noise-rock equivalent of the Ramones, drooling idiotically as they playing riffs infinite amounts of times and banging incessantly on drums, the truth is different. These people know what they’re doing. All of that history, from metal to punk to krautrock to dance, is blown up into your eardrums. Wonderful bits of shrapnel will stick into your brain, and this is a very good thing. Probably one of the best things out there right now.

Toro Y Moi – Causers of This 8.5

As soon as you put on the album, you get treated to the breezy easiness of the album. Now the singer may not be the best one you’ve ever heard, but something about it fits into the music perfectly. Like if it was confident, the music might come across as a bit smug, but the vulnerability of the vocals matches the whoozy nature of the sounds. And while he might get lumped as a lesser version of chillwave (whatever that means), really he has a different objective. This isn’t merely a nostalgia trip, its showing his evolution as an artist; from one that did Beach House covers (see his previous release) to one that feels comfortable with pop music.

None of these songs go above the 4 minute mark; they wouldn’t work that way anyway. And although it is a very low-key affair, there’s a great deal of diversity. From hip hop J Dilla style to almost Metronomy like choruses of sugary sweetness, it is all here. It flies by so quickly, almost a fleeting glimpse. Minor flourishes like the dreamy sequences of “Lissom” or the adorable chorus of “Low Shoulder” just make this so instantly likable.

Though the lyrics are obviously secondary, serving as more another instrument rather than as any particular insight, there are moments like “I’m sorry I couldn’t name the color of your eyes” that sort of drive the whole point home of tender sweetness.

Essentially this is eccentric pop, done well. I’ve had a very difficult time turning this off or finding a dud in the pack. It works well as either single songs or a coherent whole. A great big hug brought to your ears.